The government has released some important exemptions to the copyright laws governing circumvention of digital controls. Main stream media is focusing on the “jail break” permission for cell phones. For those not familiar with the term, by default an IPhone will only run apps that have been approved by Apple and from their store. This creates their own very profitable ecosystem, which the pros and cons that come with any selective list of software, i.e. usability and quality versus choice and variety. Users who preferred the latter would “jail break” the phones or “crack” the device to allow it to run other apps. This is now legal, though I’m sure it still voids the warranty. Expect to see competitors to the Apple app market soon.
For educators, the more immediate benefit comes from the permission to rip DVDs for educational use provided it falls under fair use guidelines or the Teach Act. Up until now, even though it fell under fair use, the defeating of the copy protection was in and of itself illegal, which made for a rather illogical situation where the final product was legal but the only way of obtaining it was illegal. Keep in mind, this is still not carte blanche for educators and videos. Streaming entire films from a course management system is still illegal. If you’re interested in copyright permissions available to educator, the University of Texas has a fairly easy to understand description.